Gr8 Acts of Kindness winner is a lifeline to family during the pandemic

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 10:48 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 30, 2021 at 10:54 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Heroes are all around us.

We may not know it until something happens like the pandemic.

However, this month’s Gr8 Acts of Kindness reveals a hero who worked daily to ensure lines of communication between a father and daughter stayed open.

“She’s the best!” announces a woman in the therapy room at Ridgecrest Health and Rehabilitation in Jonesboro.

“I’m gonna tell Wes you said that,” Heather Landers laughs and points in the direction of her colleague.

Landers works every day to improve the physical abilities of seniors at Ridgecrest.

“He always said she made his day,” Debbie Pilgrim said. Pilgrim nominated Landers for the Gr8 Acts of Kindness. “He” is her father, JB Darnell.

Heather Landers is pictured with JB Darnell. Heather was his physical therapist when he...
Heather Landers is pictured with JB Darnell. Heather was his physical therapist when he resided at Ridgecrest Health and Rehabilitation(Source: Debbie Pilgrim)

But during the pandemic, this physical therapist became a lifeline between a daughter.

“Without Heather, I would not have been able to see him at all,” Pilgrim said.

And her father.

“He cannot hear anything. So, for me to go to the window, it was just him looking at me because he could not understand,” Pilgrim said.

Window visits just wouldn’t work for Pilgrim’s dad.

He’s deaf and couldn’t make sense of it.

“I am an only child and he is my heart and soul,” Pilgrim explained.

That’s when Heather realized that wherever there’s a will...

“She’s wants to do the best,” Pilgrim said.

There’s a way.

“She would take pictures of my Daddy,” Pilgrim said.

Facetiming with Debbie’s father would provide treasured moments of peace during the chaos that was the pandemic.

“Heather would bring Mr. JB down to the therapy gym every morning,” Kara Davis, administrator of Ridgecrest Health and Rehabilitation said. “It didn’t matter if he was on therapy or not. She would make sure that they got that phone call.”

Debbie nominated Heather for the Gr8 Acts of Kindness and we had a very special visit to make.

However, there was just one problem.

JB and Debbie had recently moved away from Jonesboro.

“We’re going to bring you in,” I said while on Facetime with Debbie in Idaho. “I might cry!”

Hundreds of miles away...

Still, we managed to have them with us for the big surprise.

“She’s watching!”

“Heather Landers, it is so good to see you today,” I said entering the room where Heather happened to be working.

A crowd of friends, family, and First Community Bank personnel poured into the room.

“Oh, my Lord!” Heather exclaims.

“We are on a mission today to honor you! During the pandemic, you really became a hero. There one family, in particular, that really struggled during that time. It involves a daughter and her Dad and I think you know which one. Her Dad couldn’t hear and you were the eyes and ears for them. You took pictures faithfully all the time. And that is why you are the next winner in the Gr8 Acts of Kindness, Heather.”

Applause fills the room.

“Three hundred. Four hundred. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Four hundred eight dollars!” I count the money into Heather’s hand.

Then, Heather turns to find the biggest surprise of all!

There, on a phone not far from her face, is JB and Debbie.

They are Facetiming from Idaho... just like Heather used to do with them from inside the rehabilitation center.

“They moved away to Idaho,” I explained. “But, Debbie Pilgrim is on the line right now Facetiming with us.”

“Debbie!” Heather yells. She drops to her knees and begins to cry.

“Debbie has become a member of my family and I have become a member of theirs,” Landers said. “I have been blessed to have them because there are times when I did not want to come to work and they help me remember why I’m here.”

Before her days here at Ridgecrest, Heather was an athletic trainer for the Mountain Home School District. It was a big career change.

“I know why I’m here, and my grandma tells me all the time,” Landers said. “Go light up the world with your smile.”

“We don’t need words, do we?” Landers said as she Facetimed JB Darnell in the physical therapy gym at Ridgecrest.

“Yesterday, he had tears in his eyes and he said, ‘I miss her!’” Pilgrim said.

Debbie doesn’t know how she would have ever made it through this past year had it not been for Heather.

“I can be there for them when their families can’t,” Landers said.

Heather Landers, a point of light... during a very dark time in the pandemic.

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